Coronavirus, global pandemic, COVID-19, social distancing, quarantine, mask mandate – the hot topic of conversation seems to revolve around these ever-evolving terms. Separated from our loved ones, prohibited from gathering in a group of more than ten people, unable to attend funerals, church services moving online, and the overall lack of human connection has become the theme of the world we are living in today. For an alcoholic like me, this has been a challenging year. I miss the simple smiles of the cashier at Publix. I miss heading to church with my two little ones on Sundays. I miss my fellowship in A.A. I miss my people.
So far, 2020 has been one heck of a year. I have spent a lot of time removed from my normal routine. I have suffered some financial losses. I have been trapped in my home with two overactive children, while also attempting to work from home full-time. I celebrated my four years of sobriety via a zoom meeting. I have shifted focus onto the things that matter the most such as the little moments with my kids to home-cooked meals. I have found a much deeper appreciation for community and even the freedom of making a trip to the grocery store. Above all else, I have grown spiritually more in this last year than I have throughout my entire sobriety.
I am the real deal alcoholic – through and through. I suffer from the physical allergy, mental obsession, and spiritual malady that we talk about often. Therefore, social distancing can wreak havoc on the four years of all of the work I have put into my sobriety. However, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by an army of faithful and compassionate women. I am also fortunate enough to have a sponsor who has helped me acquire the tools necessary to stay sober – no matter what. Walking through this apocalyptic, chaotic chain of events has been overwhelming, to say the least. Thankfully, I have an ever-evolving relationship with a power greater than myself. During this difficult, anxiety-ridden time, I have spent more time meditating and less time worrying. I have found that the more I buckle down on the practices I learned in early sobriety, rather than focusing on the things that I cannot control, I have shifted my focus to the things I can control.
Finding Peace in the Chaos
Alcoholics and addicts are known for igniting the flame of fear and anxiety through our innate reactive thinking. We commonly obsess over the worst-case scenario: What if I get sick? What if my loved ones get sick? What if I’m let go from my job? What if my business goes under and I can’t pay my bills? What if I run out of toilet paper? And just like that, I have followed the rabbit down the hole into a delusional world in which I get the virus, lose my job, my kids get sick, we are homeless, and life as I know it is over. That’s exactly how my brain works. I fixate on what I have lost – routines, plans, and freedoms. Imagining all of the growth benefits to be found in the valley, I focus on all of the negatives.
After a few months of following every biased news story, I finally had enough. I learned in early recovery that focusing on the good doesn’t come easy to me; however, being willing to shift my perspective is how I got sober in the first place. I remember a close friend of mine (with over ten years sober) reminded me that I should look at every situation from the perspective of: What can I bring into this situation? What can I learn from this situation? Where is God asking me to move through this situation? These simple questions are a stretch for an overly anxious alcoholic like me, but when I simply change the narrative in my head, my perspective, mood, and actions slowly begin to change. Throughout my sobriety, I have flourished in the valleys and not on the mountaintops. “Without suffering, there can be no compassion.”
Appreciating the Season of Rest
I am a perfectionist, to say the least. This season of isolation has really brought many things to light for me. One glaring defect I struggle with is my inability to rest. I inherently feel like I should never rest because there is always something I could be doing. As productive as this mentality may sound, it has been to my detriment and to the detriment of many alcoholics and addicts before me. I have come to the realization that this impossible standard is a passive-aggressive self-sabotaging cycle that typically ends in half measures. Covid-19 has disrupted all of our usual routines and the busyness of our exhausted culture. Life has slowed down considerably.
I have realized the inhumane and disconnected patterns that are intertwined lifestyles had become. Whether you are a single mother working two jobs, raising little humans, rushing to MMA practice, or you are the CEO of a prestigious company – it would be fair to say, we never slow down. As a whole, our society spends more time working than we do slowing down to experience the precious moments with the ones we love the most. I often convince myself that if I rest, the rest of the world will cease to function. What a delusion; the world does not revolve around me, and the world is just fine if I take a day off to slow down and appreciate the little things. I have made a commitment to having dinner at the kitchen table at least four times a week with my kids. On the weekends, I pick ONE day to work on my freelance work, and the other day is for time with my kids. Taking the time to rest and meditate has become one of the most rejuvenating components of my spirituality.
Embrace Your Community
I was listening to a sermon the other day when the pastor began to speak on community: “In a world in which we are isolated from spending time with our community and our Creator together, we must capitalize on the opportunity to dive deeper into our connections within the community.” This hit home for me. They say, “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and I have found a much deeper appreciation for the people in my life. I have naturally been focusing on how much I miss my family and friends in the fellowship, but the truth is – they are all just a phone call away.
Separated from the hustle and bustle of the crowds that normally surround us, we are fortunate to live in an era of unprecedented connectivity. We are all in this together. There is no greater connection established with a power greater than myself when I am helping and connecting with other people. A tangible spiritual connection is found in the trenches with God’s people. As the world continues into the chaos, change and hope can be found in our very own communities. From spontaneous FaceTime calls with family members, zoom bible studies with my sponsorship family, to sitting outside chatting with my elderly neighbor who lives alone, I have found so much love and hope to deepen the connection with the people in my community this time of social distancing. This pandemic has disrupted our lives, but nothing can separate us from loving one another and deepening our faith in the One who holds it all together.